I think I’ve taken more cold showers than heated showers thus far on The Happy Nomad Tour. I’ve developed a bit of a system since I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold despite growing up in extremely cold Cleveland, Ohio. So, here is a wimp’s guide to taking a cold shower should you find yourself perpetually taking them.
1. Mentally prepare. You’re about to shock your body with cold water. If the outside temperature is cold, you’re in for a double dose of coldness. Parts of your body you didn’t know could turn purple will turn purple. Don’t be alarmed. It’s all for the sake of cleanliness.
2. Rinse your hair. Despite being the vent so much of your heat escapes from, the head is surprisingly insensitive to cold showers. Bend over so the runoff water doesn’t come in contact with your body. Just rinse your head thoroughly while keeping the rest of your body dry.
3. Shampoo your hair. Making silly designs out of your hair is optional.
4. Stand up. Now stand up straight and let the beads of cold water run down the rest of your body. There won’t be much water, but it’ll be a warning to the rest of your body for what is about to come.
4a. Manual awakening. This step is optional and only for the wimpiest of wimps, myself included. Get your hand wet and introduce its coldness to the dry parts of your body. You’ll have to do this repeatedly as the coldness has a short lifespan due to your warm hand. Doing this reduces some of the shock of what’s to come.
5. Soap it up. Now is the dreaded part. You have to apply the cold water to your body to be able to properly soap yourself. So, get wet, try not to scream (yes, even local people screamed while taking cold showers here) and apply the soap.
6. Pause in bewilderment. The shock of the cold water is very short-lived. Assuming the outside temperature isn’t too low, notice how quickly your body seems to respond to the cold intrusion by warming itself up. I can’t explain this scientifically, but it always happens. It doesn’t mean you are all of a sudden comfortable, but it’s far more comfortable than you’d think. Similarly, I’ve re-entered bathrooms after taking a cold shower only to discover the warm humidity you’d expect after taking a hot shower. Our bodies are amazing furnaces!
7. Final rinse. Rinse the shampoo and soap off your body.
8. Dry off. Depending on the air temperature this can be comfortable or a race against hypothermia.
8a. Hurry up. When the temperature is cold dry off as quickly as possible. Take measures to warm up again, whether drinking something warm or getting under some blankets. At times on this trip, in places like Dharamsala, India and Cartago, Costa Rica and Yauya, Peru this has proven to be very difficult. I have taken hours to warm back up again and de-purple-ize my extremeties.
9. Get dressed.
10. Repeat when necessary.
Disclaimer: If this sounds like a fantastic way to waste water, note that I always turn the water off in between steps when using a Western-style shower, but more often than not it’s a bucket where there is no wastage at all.